Youth In Action, September-October 2014

From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters

by Michael Gilbert

On June 11 in Salt Lake City, Utah, about 50 students, faculty and community members expressed alarm at a meeting over the fate of campus space used mainly by international students and students of color. Salt Lake Community College interim President Deneece Huftalin planned on destroying the Multicultural Initiatives Department offices and Center. After Huftalin faced serious criticisms, she is backtracking. Students, faculty and community members vowed to continue to fight for both the department and the space if Huftalin makes any moves to cut either of them.

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On July 28 more than 100 Dreamers—undocumented youth who came to the U.S. before they were 16 and lived here continuously for at least five years—and their parents launched Dreams From Our Families at the White House to highlight their stories. They demanded relief from deportations that have affected millions. Throughout the year they pressured the President, demanding action on immigration issues, building on the successes of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. Oliver Merino, a Dreamer leader, said, “We’re demanding that the President show leadership and fulfill his promise to extend administrative relief to millions of undocumented families that have roots in our country, like my mother.”

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After 14 months of protests, the University of Texas at Austin has cut ties with the global outsourcing firm Accenture and scaled back the “shared services” plan. The plan would have cost $54 million, created centralization and eliminated 500 jobs. The protests escalated in July when the administration arrested 18 students for staging a peaceful sit-in in President Bill Powers’ office, hours after 200 faculty and staff rallied against Accenture. Although UT has significantly scaled back shared services to about $5-$7 million, Save Our Community Coalition (SOCC) continues to oppose the expansion of shared services and worries about how UT will measure its success. They are calling on the administration to involve SOCC members in any future decisions regarding plans for shared services.

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On July 30, 20 activists and students were arrested during a protest outside REI in Rockville, Md. They came together to demand REI stop stocking The North Face, whose parent company VF Corp. is linked to ongoing labor violations in Bangladesh—including a deadly factory fire in 2010 where 20 died. Despite repeated incidents, VF Corp. has refused to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire Safety. United Students Against Sweatshops activists are targeting VF Corp., one of the largest apparel companies in the world, for its failure to sign the Accord on Fire Safety and make a binding commitment to improve the factories that produce its goods.

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